May 26 (UPI) -- Costa Rica became the first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people watched Daritza Araya Arguedas, 24, and Alexandra Quiros Castillo, 29, get married early Tuesday morning as the first same-sex couple to legally do so in Costa Rica.
The Supreme Elections Tribunal said Tuesday it has received 55 declarations of marriage from same-sex couples it will start to process.
Costa Rica's Supreme Court of Justice ruled in August 2018 the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and gave parliament 18 months to legislate or the ban would be automatically lifted.
The deadline expired Monday night, allowing the ban to be lifted at midnight.
Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado, who showed support of same-sex marriage during his campaign and marched in the 2019 pride parade in San Jose, praised the move in a statement.
"To the LGBTQ community, whose rights will be recognized ... Over decades you were offended, humiliated, persecuted, but you never gave up the fight," Alvarado said in the statement. "You persisted with pride and determination. You did so with the three unstoppable forces that should guide the 21st century: Liberty, equality, and democratic institutions."
"Thanks to your work over decades, Costa Rica recognizes the rights you always deserved and returns a little of the liberty that so often was limited," he added. "You, your partners, your families, your children will have the same rights as any other person, couple or family in this country."
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, U.N. independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, praised the change in a tweet about the move Monday evening.
"In a few hours my country, #CostaRica, will recognize equal marriage," he tweeted. "An extraordinary moment of celebration and gratitude to the work of so many activists, and of quiet reflection of the lives of those who lived without seeing this moment."